Maurice and Avon… ’til death do us part

The Dahl family turned to Hospice care at Winneshiek Medical Center when their father, Maurice, reached end-of-life. Mike Dahl (standing) is pictured with his sister, Sandy Lorch (standing, left) and his wife, Carri (seated, right), along with Jill Shindelar (seated, left) a WMC Hospice nurse.
The Dahl family turned to Hospice care at Winneshiek Medical Center when their father, Maurice, reached end-of-life. Mike Dahl (standing) is pictured with his sister, Sandy Lorch (standing, left) and his wife, Carri (seated, right), along with Jill Shindelar (seated, left) a WMC Hospice nurse.

Maurice and Avon Dahl never left each other’s side.   Living in the very house of his birth, Maurice and his bride, Avon, were married for a mere 58 years, raising 12 children and enjoying scores of grand and great-grandchildren.  “Dad was a family man, and his main concern was the well-being of his family,” says Mike, the couple’s youngest son.  “Mom really enjoyed the all the little ones that came along – the babies,” says Sandy, Mike’s older sister.

Maurice and Avon chose a simple life on the family farm, and the couple did everything together.  When Avon was no longer able to care for her aging husband, they both moved into a long-term care facility.

Uncharacteristically, Avon fell while at the care facility, and was taken to La Crosse to recover.  “I was with her the entire morning.  Someone from our family was always there,” says Sandy.  “She was just fine – we were having a normal conversation and anticipating her discharge from the hospital – and I stepped out to eat lunch in the cafeteria.  When I returned 30 minutes later, she had passed away.”

Breaking the news of Avon’s sudden death to Maurice was a family affair.  “We were all there to tell Dad,” says Mike.  “I think he knew before we said a word.”  Although Maurice suffered from age-related dementia, he was prepared to help with the funeral arrangements.  “We spent the morning at the funeral home with Dad deciding all the details – he wanted to be sure wear his best suit for Mom.”

That day would be the last Maurice was able to communicate with his family.  “We got a call from the care facility very early the next morning saying that Dad was on his way to Winneshiek Medical Center in an ambulance,” says Sandy.  “Dad had an upper GI bleed and as a result, aspiration pneumonia.  Dad’s wishes had already been made known through an advanced directive; he did not want measures taken to preserve his life.”

The Dahl family, with the assistance of their parent’s doctor, Matthew Thompson, D.O., of Gundersen Health System in Decorah, decided to enlist the help of Winneshiek Medical Center Hospice.

Hospice is a special kind of care for families facing life-limiting illnesses. Hospice is available to anyone, regardless of their ability to pay and offers services families need during end of life, such as pain management, emotional and spiritual support, personal cares, and bereavement support.

“The Hospice nurses came in to explain to the family the kinds of care they provide to patients,” says Carri, Mike’s wife.  “They were there to help make Dad comfortable – and to comfort our family,” adds Mike.

Maurice remained on Hospice care at Winneshiek Medical Center – he was eligible for a special hospital room for this very purpose.  “Hospice care can be provided in any place the patient calls home, whether it be their own home, a long-term care facility or, if appropriate, the hospital,” says Nancy Haberichter, WMC Hospice nurse manager.

The family initially decided to wait for Avon’s funeral, anticipating that Maurice had only days to live.  But when he held on longer than expected, the family went ahead and scheduled a day to celebrate Avon’s life.  “The Hospice nurses aided us in our decision to proceed with Mom’s funeral.  They stayed with Dad the entire time and agreed to call us if anything changed in his condition,” says Sandy.

One week later, Maurice joined his wife.  “We are so grateful to the Hospice team.  They were available to Dad, and to us, any time day or night,” says Mike.  Sandy, agreeing, says, “They listened, laughed and cried right along with us.  They are truly angels.”

Hospice care is available to anyone facing a life limiting illness through a doctor’s referral.  For more information on this program, call Winneshiek Medical Center Hospice at 563-387-3024.

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